Iran & the chilling significance of the “No Alternative” argument

The attempt to justify the 2015 deal with Iran, as being the only viable alternative to allowing it to develop nuclear weapons, is both infuriating and disingenuous.

The prime minister of Israel is deeply opposed to it, I think he’s made that very clear. I have repeatedly asked, what is the alternative that you present that you think makes it less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon? And I have yet to obtain a good answer on that. Barack Obama, on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Office of the White House Press Secretary, April 11, 2015.

President Obama has been crystal clear. Don’t rush. We’re not in a rush. We need to get the right deal…No deal is better than a bad deal. And we are certainly adhering to that concept.  Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, “No deal is better than a bad deal”, Politico, Nov. 10, 2013.

Why would the mullahs cheat on a deal as good for them as this one?…Simply put, this is one terrific agreement for Tehran. And Iran is likely to have no interest in violating it…It’s the cruelest of ironies that Iran is reaping huge rewards for giving up something it wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place. Aaron David Miller, “Iran’s Win-Win…Win Win Win Nuke Deal”, Daily Beast, July 20, 2015. 

The Iran nuclear deal, concluded in July 2015, was catapulted back into the headlines on Monday, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that the Israel intelligence services had managed to spirit away a huge trove of documents from the heart of Tehran to Israel.


A dodgy deal, born of deception

The documents prove that, in contradiction to public declarations of it leaders, Iran had, indeed, planned to produce nuclear weapons, to develop the ability to deliver them by means of ballistic missiles, and had secretly stored the information in an undisclosed location—presumably for use at some future date, chosen by the Iranians. After all, if this was not the Iranian intent, why bother to store them at all—never mind surreptitiously conceal such storage?

Reactions to Netanyahu’s exposé ranged from the fervently enthusiastic to the dismissively blasé, with opinions being roughly divided between those who opposed the 2015 deal; and those who endorsed it—the former seeing it as a telling endorsement of their prior position, the latter, refusing to be moved by the revelations.

Those who would attempt to diminish the significance of the remarkable intelligence coup, by claiming that what Netanyahu revealed produced nothing substantially new, or anything demonstrating that Iran had breached the 2015 deal, largely miss the point.

Indeed, it is difficult to know what is worse—whether these claims by the deal’s adherents (or more accurately, apologists) are true, or whether they are not.

For if they are true, then the deal was signed with the co-signatories fully aware that the the deal was “born in sin”, and based on blatant deception and deceit on the part of the Iranians—to which they were willingly complicit. Alternatively, if they are not true, then the co-signatories were blatantly hoodwinked by Tehran, and are now disingenuously trying to deny their incompetence and gullibility.


“…the cruelest of ironies…”

For the real point brought home by Netanyahu’s revelation is not that the deal has been violated, but that it should never have been made in the first place. As former senior State Department official, and today Vice President at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Aaron David Miller, points out, the absurdity of the deal is that it awards “Iran … huge rewards for giving up something it wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place” (see introductory excerpt).

Indeed, if anything, Miller understates the absurdity.

For, in fact, the deal does not really require Iran to “give up something it wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place”, but merely to suspend it. Worse, under the terms of the agreement, Iran was essentially allowed—even empowered—“to continue doing things it wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place”—like developing ballistic missiles to carry nuclear war-heads, fomenting and financing terror across the globe, and effectively annexing other countries–either directly (as in Syria) or by tightly-controlled proxies (as in Lebanon).

In light of all this, the two major claims advanced by the deprecators of Netanyahu’s exposé —i.e. (a) that they heralded nothing new; and (b) indicated no breach by Iran—appear to be specious indeed.


Premature and prejudicial

After all, since Netanyahu divulged only a small fraction of the seized material, it is somewhat premature and prejudicial to determine whether there are any new, previously unknown elements of any consequence in it.

Moreover, as it stands at the moment, it is impossible to know whether Iran is adhering to the deal, or violating it. For it is precisely in those locations, where such violations are likely to take place—its military sites—that Iran has refused to allow inspections!

Thus, according to an August 2017 report by Reuters, Iran brusquely dismissed a U.S. demand for nuclear inspectors to visit its military bases as “merely a dream”.

When U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, pressed the IAEA to seek access to Iranian military bases to ensure that they were not concealing activities banned by the 2015 nuclear deal, an Iranian government spokesman, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, rejected this outright: “Iran’s military sites are off limits…All information about these sites are classified. Iran will never allow such visits.”

Accordingly, given the telling evidence provided by Israel that Iran lied consistently about its weapons program in the past, and given the faulty inspection regime in place today, the cardinal question should not be whether there is any compelling proof that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal, but whether there is any such proof that it is in compliance with it.


“Obama chose to ignore the peril…”

This grim assessment is underscored by an opinion piece just published by nuclear expert, Ephraim Asculai, formerly of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and today a senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. He observes: “…the “deal” with Iran dealt only partially and temporarily with the issue of preventing Iran from accomplishing its original program”, noting that “[although]… much of the information disclosed by the prime minister was known –now it is authenticated.”

According to Asculai, “Former US President Barack Obama chose to ignore the potential… But the looming crisis did not disappear. When the term of the [deal] is up in a few years, Iran will legally resume its enrichment activities.”

He warns: “The deal was not a good one. It left Iran with the potential to resume its weapons development program at will, did not really deal with the issue of the development of the nuclear explosive mechanism, did not deal with the issue of missile development, and the verification mechanism is an inefficient one, dealing only with limited issues and not using all available inspections powers.”

Asculai acknowledges the value of Netanyahu’s presentation: “The presentation did a very important thing: it presented evidence of the technical details of Iran’s past program…that includes designs, locations and probably stocks of materials…” explaining that: “This evidence is essential if the IAEA inspectors want to verify that these are no longer active, that the materials are all accounted for and the staff are all interrogated and prove that they are not engaged in the new project.


Aiding and abetting Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Asculai goes on to address Netanyahu’s critics: “From the first international reaction we learn that the general opinion was that there was no proof that Iran violated the agreement” and asks, pertinently: “[B]but is that the real issue?”

For, as he correctly notes: “Had Iran wanted to prove it had abandoned any nuclear weapons-related program it should have consented to opening up its archives, sites and materials to international inspections. It did not do this because this is not its intention”.

Asculai berates detractors of Netanyahu’s presentation and their attempt to dismiss its importance, accusing them of aiding and abetting Iran in its quest for weaponized nuclear capability: “By stating that Iran did not do wrong, these deniers are becoming accessories to its nuclear ambitions”, asking in exasperation: “Is this what they really want?”

In concluding his article, Asculai calls on Netanyahu to map out alternatives: “The prime minister should have presented the possible solutions,” and urges: “It is not too late to do so”.

Indeed, the alleged lack of an “alternative” has constituted the major thrust of the criticism of the proponents of the deal, echoing Obama’s 2015 dismissal of Netanyahu’s rejection of it: “The Prime Minister of Israel is deeply opposed to it. I think he’s made that very clear. I have repeatedly asked, what is the alternative that you present that you think makes it less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, and I have yet to obtain a good answer on that.


Infuriating and disingenuous

The attempt to justify the deal with Iran as being the only viable alternative to allowing the Islamic Republic to develop nuclear weapons is both infuriating and disingenuous.

It is infuriating because the very acceptance of the 2015 deal flies in the face of repeated prior commitments by the Obama administration to eschew bad deals. Indeed, as John Hannah pointed out in a scathing appraisal of the process led by Obama that culminated in the deal: “…the mantra guiding his Iran policy all along has allegedly been ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.”

Moreover, the claim of “no alternative’ is disingenuous because it was none other than Obama, who laid out the alternative to the current deal – which assures Iran’s weaponized nuclear capability, permits the production of missiles that can threaten European capitals, provides funds to propagate terrorism and to destabilize pro-US regimes.

After all, in Obama’s own terms, the alternative was “no deal”! 

Indeed, it was not that opponents of the deal did not offer cogent alternatives.

It was that the proponents designated–and apparently still designate—anything that Iran did not agree to as “impractical” or “unfeasible”.

Clearly, if the underlying assumption is that the only “practical” option is a consensual one—i.e. one which Tehran willingly accepts; rather that a coercive one—i.e. one which Tehran is compelled to accept, say, by intensified sanctions, backed by a credible threat of military action – then the proponents of the deal might be right that there was no “available” alternative.

Making abrogation inevitable

But by this, they are cutting the ground from under their own feet—and the very logic underlying the deal they endorse.

Indeed, the very assumption that if the deal is abandoned, Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, virtually ensures that it will.

For, if the Iranian leadership believes that co-signatories were unwilling to confront a weak, impoverished, non-nuclear, pre-deal Iran with a convincing coercive threat, why would it possibly believe that they would be willing to do so with a greatly empowered and enriched, near-nuclear, post-deal Iran?

Accordingly, if the US and its allies were not willing to confront Tehran with a credible specter of punitive, coercive action, which will compel it to abandon its nuclear program, then clearly there is no inducement for it to adhere to the deal – making its future abrogation inevitable…at any time Iran deems expedient.

That is the true—and chilling—significance of the unfounded contention that there is “no other viable alternative”.

Syria-Reaping the storm Obama sowed

If surrendering US primacy in the region to Russia was the result of US passivity and inaction, the intrusion of Iran into Syria can very definitely be attributed to ill-conceived, active American policy.


So rather than offer false promises…we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained…we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy…Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot…We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program. – Barack Obama, Address on Counterterrorism, December 6, 2016.


With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100% of the chemical weapons out… – John Kerry, Obama’s Secretary of State, Meet the Press, July 20, 2014.

“We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. Our aim…was…to deal with the threat of chemical weapons by virtue of the diplomacy …We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, NPR , January 16, 2017.

The past years have been ones of great trauma and tragedy in Syria.

Sadly, ongoing trends may well herald trauma and tragedy on even a greater scale – not only for Syria itself, but for the entire region, and well beyond.

On the cusp of catastrophic conflict

Indeed, barely five years ago, few analysts—if any—would have predicted that the world would be poised on the brink of a militarized confrontation between the US and Israel on the one hand, and Russia, Iran, Syria and possibly Turkey (perversely and paradoxically a NATO member), on the other.

Yet these are precisely the emerging contours of the conflict on whose cusp we are now perched.

Much of the blame for the unfolding drama of human misery must be laid squarely and unequivocally on Barack Obama—and his disastrous policy decisions.

The source of virtually every vector of bestial brutality that has converged on Syria in the last half-decade—and which now threaten to diverge from it and engulf others, both near and far—can be traced back to the previous administration’s foreign policy preferences.

Indeed, a straight line can be drawn from the flaccidity of the Obama positions on US military presence in Iraq and his disdainful dismissal of the threat posed by ISIS; his disregard for his own “red lines” in Syria over Assad’s use of chemical weapons, coupled with his surrender of US influence to Russia; and of course, his capitulation to the tyrannical theocrats in Tehran on Iran’s nuclear program.

After all, the substantive content of these policies were so patently divergent from their declared purpose, it is difficult to reconcile their adoption with genuine good faith—unless one assumes almost child-like naiveté or staggering ignorance, neither of which are reassuring qualities for a leader of the world’s most powerful nation.

Obama: The most Islamophilic president ever

Significantly, the consequences of Obama’s “legacy’ have been so unambiguously calamitous that even the once sycophantic Obama-phile, Jeffrey Goldberg, penned an article (The Atlantic, April 7, 2017), disapprovingly headlined: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. With uncharacteristic acerbity for someone once so unreservedly supportive of the former president, Goldberg admits: “The 2013 Obama-Putin deal to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons was a failure… The argument that Obama achieved comprehensive WMD disarmament without going to war is no longer, as they say in Washington, operative.”

However, I hesitate to deem these decisions “errors of judgement”, for the really disturbing thing about Obama’s foreign policy is that it is difficult to know whether the appalling outcomes they produced were the result of well-intentioned, but unintended, blunders—or of malevolent and deliberate intent.

For whatever one might believe regarding Barack Obama’s genuine religious affiliation, one thing is beyond any honest dispute: He is without doubt the most Islamophilic president to ever to hold office, unabashedly unmoored to the bollards of the Judeo-Christian legacy that has underpinned—indeed, shaped—the character of the United States since its inception. This undoubtedly colored his view of America’s national interests and the appropriate manner in which they ought to be pursued, in hues very different from any other White House incumbent.

“…Muslims built our tallest building”

Thus, in his seminal outreach address in Cairo (June 2009) to the Muslim world, which in many ways laid the corner-stone for the subsequent orientation of his administration’s foreign policy, Obama, with scant historical corroboration to back himself up, declared: “I…know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story”—adding somewhat incongruously “…Muslims have enriched the United States …They have [among other things] built our tallest building”…just a few years after Muslims knocked down two of America’s tallest buildings. No kidding!

He then proceeded to draw a highly questionable equivalence between the ethos of the US and that of Islam: “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Just how ludicrous his alleged parallel is, is something I have dealt with elsewhere –see Will the West Withstand the Obama Presidency?, and will thus forego any further elaboration here. However, it would be imprudent to ignore how this clearly articulated perspective impacted his policy-making.

Few have expressed what effect this overtly professed proclivity in Obama’s political credo (conveyed in his 2009 Cairo address) had on his administration’s ensuing foreign policy more succinctly than former Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren.

From Cairo 2009 to Syria 2018

In a 2015 “Foreign Policy” essay, Oren excoriates Obama’s “naiveté as peacemaker, blinders to terrorism, and alienation of allies.”

Referring to Obama’s Cairo speech and other similar remarks made at the start of his incumbency, Oren observes: “These pronouncements presaged what was, in fact, a profound recasting of U.S. policy.”

He recounts that whenever leaders “ were perplexed by the administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Syria — severed by Bush after the assassination of Lebanese president Rafik Hariri — or its early outreach to Libya and Iran, I would always refer them to that text. When policymakers back home failed to understand why Obama stood by Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who imprisoned journalists and backed Islamic radicals, or Mohamed Morsi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and briefly its president, I would invariably say: ‘Go back to the speech.’ ”

In the essay, written barely a month before the July 2015 deal struck with Iran, Oren berates Obama’s “unique approach to Islam”, and his “assumption that a nuclear deal with Iran will render it ‘a very successful regional power’ capable of healing, rather than inflaming, historic schisms”, adding dryly: “That assumption was scarcely shared by Sunni Muslims, many of whom watched with deep concern at what they perceived as an emerging U.S.-Iranian alliance.”

“The Terrible Cost of Obama’s Failure in Syria”

The utter failure of the Obama doctrine can no longer be papered over. Its calamitous consequences are now beginning to be openly acknowledged in the mainstream media.

Thus, earlier this month, a withering review of what Obama has helped wreak in Syria appeared in “The Atlantic”—where the once obsequious Goldberg is Editor-in-Chief—under the caustic title “The Terrible Cost of Obama’s Failure in Syria”, detailing the atrocities inflicted on the civilian population since the administration’s glowing predictions that “we struck a deal where we got 100% of the chemical weapons out”.

But as tragic as the wholesale slaughter of civilians by Assad—once considered a “reformer”—are, there are many other grave, more strategic ramifications of the now widely discredited Obama doctrine.

The failure to assess the true nature of the threat ISIS posed in Iraq allowed the civil war there to spill over into Syria, compounding the carnage there. The uncontrolled escalation of fighting—and the absence of any US initiative to reign in Assad’s brutality—led to massive flows of refugees fleeing into Turkey and from there, into Europe—precipitating massive socio-cultural tensions across the continent, and threatening to undermine much of the domestic societal fabric.

Moreover, much like nature, politics abhors a vacuum. So when US reticence created a power vacuum in Syria, it was Putin and the Ayatollahs who were only too eager to fill it.

Freeing the Iranian tyranny from its bonds

But if surrendering US primacy in the region to Russia was the result of US passivity and inaction, the intrusion of Iran into Syria and the establishment of an ominous military presence there, together with the threat of a Shi’ite land bridge, linking Iran to the Mediterranean Coast, can very definitely be attributed to ill-conceived, active American policy.

After all, the current Iranian brazenness in Syria (and other portions of the region) would be inconceivable without the 2015 nuclear deal, ushered in by the Obama administration. Indeed, it is difficult to envisage the Iranian regime, prior to the deal, crippled by sanctions and deprived of assets, being able to orchestrate its current provocative mischief. The Obama orchestrated deal freed it from these inhibiting constraints and allowed it to pursue its global agenda of terror and aggression.

For in reality, there were only two ways to effectively restrain Tehran, force it to dismantle and discard its nuclear program, and to curtail its promotion of international terror.

In the short run, this involved maintaining—even tightening—the sanctions, which brought it to the negotiating table in the first place, backed up by a credible threat of military action against Iranian infrastructure—its dams, bridges, power plants and its tele-communication installations—in the case of continued defiance.

In the longer run, Iranian compliance with acceptable international norms can only be assured by regime-change—and replacement of the current tyrannical theocracy by rulers not driven the will to impose its fanatical brand of Islam across the globe.

Tyranny empowered, enriched & entrenched

Sadly, Obama obviated both these possibilities.

By unequivocally taking the military option off the table and relinquishing his pledge that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, he left Tehran secure in the knowledge that if the West backed away from the use of force against a weak, impoverished, non-nuclear Iran, there was little chance of it being adopted later, against a stronger, richer nuclear Iran.

Secondly, by abolishing the sanctions and freeing billions of Iranian assets, Obama empowered the current regime militarily, enriched it economically, and entrenched it politically. Thus, he inevitably made any chance of regime-change commensurately more remote.

Accordingly, without any real threat to its grip on power, the ruling tyranny was left unencumbered to pursue its malevolent designs in Syria; and together with the Russians, prop up their puppet, Assad, while developing a military presence to threaten Israel, and enhance its hegemonic aspirations across the Mid-East and beyond.

This is clearly a situation which Israel cannot tolerate, bringing the potential for large-scale militarized confrontation perilously close.

The bitter fruits of appeasement

The last great global conflict was the result of appeasement—and the attempt to assuage tyranny by concessions. In the aftermath of the Obama era, we are left to hope that yet another ill-advised attempt to appease tyranny will not precipitate yet another human catastrophe.

Gaza – The collapse of “the land-for-peace” concept

Israel must convey that it will consider the continuation of the “March of Return” an overt act of war, and all the participants in it, enemy combatants—who must expect to face all the risks that entails.

… this wasn’t a fight against the occupation. This wasn’t a march for peace. This wasn’t resistance to the settlement enterprise. This was…the desire to annihilate Israel—as the march’s organizers publicly declared—and the crazy shouting of the march’s participants. “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud,” which is the Muslim battle cry, from days of old, to slaughter Jews. Not Zionists. Not Israelis. Jews.Ben Dror Yemini, YNet, April 4, 2018.

The mass demonstrations that took place over the weekend on the fence separating Gaza from Israel, underscores two points of grave significance. The one relates to past decisions made by Israel; the other to future ones it will have to make.

With regard to the past, it is clear that the formula of land-for-peace has failed dramatically, disastrously and definitively.

“Land-for-peace” has failed both Jew and Arab

After all, it was in Gaza that the misguided experiment of attempting to foist self-rule on the Palestinian-Arabs was initiated with Yasser Arafat’s triumphant return to the coastal enclave in July 1994, amid much fanfare and international acclaim.

The events of last Friday have proven just how unfounded the high hopes of peace and prosperity, back then, were. For the process that was set in motion in mid-1994 has-predictably—brought only trauma and tragedy to Jew and Arab alike, precipitating three devastating wars, with a fourth widely deemed inevitable.

However, although it has imposed several serious security challenges on Israel—such as suicide bombing, overhead rockets, underground terror tunnels, lone-wolf knifing and ramming attacks—what it has wrought on the Palestinian-Arabs is far worse—particularly in Gaza, where it all began.

With frequent and extended power outages, soaring unemployment, pervasive penury, undrinkable water, polluted beaches and awash in flows of raw sewage, the largely destitute Gazan population has been the real victim of two-statism and the ill-conceived initiative to grant them political sovereignty. To make matters even worse, the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, locked in a fierce power struggle with Hamas that (mis)governs Gaza, is threatening to make the situation of the hapless Gazans even more desperate—by further cutting off funds to reduce electric power, food and medical supplies.

So almost a quarter-century since the Oslo Accords were signed, allowing self-rule to the Gazan-Arabs, and well over a decade after Israel completely evacuated the Gaza Strip, removing any remnant of Jewish presence, all the perversely named “peace process” has produced is hordes of Gazans, tens of thousands strong, massing at the border, egged on by their leaders to obliterate Israel—within the pre-“occupation” borders—in what was dubbed the “March of Return”.

A March to destroy Israel

This was clearly articulated in the fiery proclamation by the head of Hamas, Yihya Sinwar, who vowed: “The ‘March of Return’ will continue. It will not stop until we remove this transient border. Friday’s protests mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation…and the return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel…”

He continued, declaring “The ‘March of Return’ affirms that our people cannot give up one inch of the land of Palestine … The protests will continue until the Palestinians return to the lands from which they were expelled 70 years ago”.

The reference to erasing the “transient border” between Gaza and pre-1967 Israel, to the “return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel and…the lands from which they were expelled 70 years ago” removes any doubt as to the purpose of the so-called “March of Return”.

For this clearly indicates that the sense of “grievance” that the March is intended to address is not any alleged injustice due to the “Occupation” (which began in 1967, just over 50 years ago) but the existence of Israel as a Jewish state (established in 1948 i.e.–70 years ago).

Thus as Gatestone’s Bassam Tawil aptly points out in his “A March to Destroy Israel”: “Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yehya Sinwar… did not hide the real goal behind the ‘March of Return’—to destroy Israel”.

Significantly, Tawil’s grim diagnosis closely reflects the appraisal by left-leaning columnist Ben-Dror Yemini (see introductory excerpt) that the March was a manifestation of the “the desire to annihilate Israel—and.. to slaughter Jews. Not Zionists. Not Israelis. Jews”

“We will eat the livers of the Jews”

Israel can ill-afford to treat the “March” as anything less ominous—especially in light of the manifest resolve to continue—even, escalate—the hostile rally on the border. Indeed, recent reports suggest that the participants will attempt to obscure the vision of the IDF forces with smoke screens produced by burning huge quantities of old tires and blinding IDF sharpshooters with mirrors and lasers, to allow rioters to breach the fence, undetected.

One needs little imagination to picture the ghastly consequences should even a tiny fraction of the frenzied mob, pressing against the fence, were to burst through and overrun a single Israeli community close to the border, butchering the residents, ravaging the women, and razing the homes. After all, it was none other than Sinwar himself who unabashedly pledged publicly that the invading Gazans would “eat the livers” of Israelis they encountered.

Clearly, Israel cannot afford to treat this initiative to launch a popular invasion of its sovereign territory with anything other than zero tolerance. For even the perception of partial Palestinian success is likely to ignite similar mass marches in Judea-Samaria, on Israel’s northern border and even among Israeli Arabs in the Galilee, the Ara Valley and the Negev.

Misguided moderation

In confronting this impending danger, Israel must avoid the intellectual pitfall of thinking that matters can be contained by adopting moderation as a policy guideline. Quite the reverse is true. Nothing could coax the Palestinian-Arabs more into sustaining and escalating their action than the belief that Israel’s response will be “moderate” a.k.a. proportionate. Indeed, nothing could motivate them more than the conviction that Israel will refrain from undertaking punitive measures that will inflict unacceptable – a.k.a.
disproportionate—cost on them.

One only need look at how the Gazans have enhanced their capabilities in rocketry and tunnel excavation to understand how grave the peril will be if they are allowed to persist, unchecked, in their new stratagem of popular invasions of Israel. Thus, Israel’s response must be determined by the overall potential threat entailed in such attempted invasions, not by the specific actions of the participants on any given day—just as its response to Hamas’s attempt to develop missile capability should have been determined by the overall potential threat entailed in it amassing of a vast arsenal of such weapons, not by the damage caused by the firing of several rockets on any given day.

How different Israel’s situation would be today if it had followed this recommendation. How dire it will be if it fails to follow it regarding the future threat.

Avoiding the prognosis of the “algorithm”

There is a conceptual “algorithm” that clearly illustrates why moderation will propel the conflict to spiral out of control, into levels of violence previously unimagined—or at least into levels of violence well above those that moderation was intended to prevent.

For if one is confronted by violence from hostile antagonists, and one confronts it with minimal force to contain it, the result will not create deterrence but only immunize the aggressors against fear of their opponents’ response and motivate them to initiate greater violence in the next round—which, if again, is only confronted by minimal force, will again not deter but only immunize against fear and herald yet another round of (greater) violence.

Thus, over time, the tit-for-tat exchange of moderate responses, in which the aggressors are secure in the knowledge that they will suffer only costs they are prepared to bear, will escalate to degrees previously unforeseen.

Indeed, only if the aggressors believe that their adversary will respond with massive, disproportionate force, and they will suffer unacceptable losses, are they likely to refrain from launching their initial hostilities.

Clearly then, moderation is liable to undermine deterrence and precipitate the very outcome it was intended to prevent.

“March” is an act of war; the participants, enemy combatants

Clearly, Israel cannot allow the sustained specter of large, potentially violent—even lethal—mass demonstrations to endure for long. After all, this will inevitably draw off and pin down large numbers of troops, which will severely disrupt other IDF activities. This could obviously be used as a distraction or diversion to facilitate perpetration of other terror activities.

Accordingly, Israel must convey, unambiguously, that it will consider the continuation of the “March of Return” an overt act of war and all the participants in it, enemy combatants—who must expect to face all the risks that this entails.

Only by sending this clear and unequivocal message, only by credibly conveying that it has the resolve to act on it, will Israel be able to avoid allowing the current crisis to degenerate into an untenable strategic threat.

Lauder’s lame lament

According to Ronald Lauder, Israel must be either perilously insecure; or demographically untenable. This is an utterly false dichotomy.

“…the Jewish democratic state faces two grave threats that I believe could endanger its very existence…The first threat is the possible demise of the two-state solution…The second, two-prong threat, is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora.” – Ronald S. Lauder, New York Times, March 18, 2018.

Earlier this week the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times, entitled Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds.

In it, he made a bewildering claim.

Lauder’s bewildering call for homophobic, misogynistic tyranny

According to Lauder, Israel can only remain a democratic Jewish state if it agrees—with some yet-to-be-identified amenable Palestinian-Arab—to establish what almost inevitably would be—if past precedent, prevailing reality and future projection are any criterion—a homophobic, misogynistic Muslim majority tyranny, on the highlands overlooking Israel’s densely populated coastal plain, dominating its only international airport, and abutting major transportation routes.

If, indeed, Lauder believes that some future Palestinian state would be anything other than said homophobic, misogynistic tyranny, with most of population drenched in inciteful, Judeocidal hatred, he never bothered to indicate that—and certainly never provided any persuasive argument, why he felt that this would be the case.

This is, to say the least, disturbing.

After all, there is little reason to surmise that once the IDF pulls out of Judea-Samaria, what happened before—every time Israel vacated territory—will not happen again.

Regrettably, Lauder seems to blithely ignore the catastrophic consequences that resulted from doing precisely what he proposes… in Gaza—where the ill-conceived effort of trying to foist self-governance on the Palestinian-Arabs culminated not only in a grave security threat to Israel, precipitating three mini-wars, but also a grave humanitarian crisis for the hapless residents of that coastal enclave.

Endorsing a mega-Gaza on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv

As a result, not only Hamas and its murderous Jihadi surrogates have weapons that can reach Greater Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport, but Israel is now compelled to construct a massive barrier along the 50 kms border with Gaza, reportedly 6 m above ground to prevent surface infiltration by terrorists; and 40 meters underground to prevent sub-surface infiltration via terror tunnels.

The construction of this barrier was deemed by IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, “the largest project” ever carried out in Israel’s military history.

There is, as mentioned, little reason to believe that if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria to facilitate the implementation of the two-state formula, the resultant realities would not follow the same path as Gaza. Significantly, the proponents of such evacuation, Lauder included, have not—and cannot—provide any persuasive assurance that it will not. Certainly, such an outcome cannot be discounted as totally implausible—and hence must be factored into Israel’s strategic planning as a possibility with which it may well have to contend.

Accordingly, if Israel’s evacuation of Gaza gave rise to the need to build a multi-billion shekel above- and below-ground barrier to protect the sparsely populated, largely rural south, surely the evacuation of Judea-Samaria is likely to give rise to a need to construct a similar barrier to protect the heavily populated, largely urban areas, which would border the evacuated territories.

Gaza vs Judea-Samaria: The daunting difference

There would, however, be several significant differences.

For, unlike Gaza, which has a 50 km border with Israel, any prospective Palestinian-Arab entity of the kind Lauder envisions in Judea-Samaria, would have a frontier of anything up to 500 km—and possibly more, depending on the exact parameters of the evacuated areas.

Moreover, unlike Gaza, which has no topographical superiority over its surrounding environs, the limestone hills of Judea-Samaria dominate virtually all of Israel’s major airfields (civilian and military); main seaports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power generation and transmission, water, communications and transportation systems); centers of civilian government and military command; and 80 percent of the civilian population and commercial activity.

Under these conditions, demilitarization is virtually irrelevant—as illustrated by the allegedly “demilitarized” Gaza. For even in the absence of a conventional air-force, navy, and armor, lightly armed renegades with improvised weapons could totally disrupt the socioeconomic routine of the nation at will, with or without the complicity of the incumbent regime, which, given its despotic nature, would have little commitment to the welfare of the average citizen.

Faced with this grim prospect, any Israeli government would either have to resign itself to recurring paralysis of the economy, mounting civilian casualties and the disruption of life in the country, or respond repeatedly with massive retaliation, with the attendant collateral damage among the non-belligerent Palestinian-Arab population, and international condemnation of its use of allegedly “disproportionate force.”

By ballot or bullet?

But it is not only demilitarization that is largely irrelevant.

So too is the alleged sincerity of any prospective Palestinian “peace partner”. For whatever the deal Lauder envisions being struck, its durability cannot be assured.

Indeed, even in the unlikely event of some Palestinian, with the requisite authority and sincerity to conclude a binding deal with Israel, did emerge, he clearly could be removed from power – by ballot or bullet – as the Gaza precedent clearly demonstrates. All the perilous concessions made to him, on the assumption of his sincerity, would then accrue to a far more inimical successor, whose political credo is likely to be based on reneging on commitments made to the “heinous Zionist entity.”

Accordingly, there is every reason to believe—and precious little not to—that any Palestinian state established in any area evacuated by Israel would—sooner or later—degenerate into a menacing giant Gaza-like entity overlooking greater Tel Aviv—with all the attendant perils such an outcome would entail.

In the past few days, a new danger, spawned by two-statism, has emerged in Gaza—the specter of mass marches of tens of thousands towards the fence separating Gaza from Israel. According to Ehud Yaari, an international fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the objective of such Hamas marches is “clearly an attempt to break through the fences, and they are ready to tolerate losses…”

In another analysis of the planned march, Jonathan Halevi warned that the organizers have been “authorized to decide for the mob to break through the border fence between Gaza and Israel, and they have hinted at their intention to issue such an order.”

The menace of mass marches

Halevi points out that the “national committee” for the “march of return” is led by one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and comprises various nationalist and Islamic organizations, including political movements such as Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

According to Halevi, the committee coordinates its activities with Palestinian organizations in Judea-Samaria that are planning to organize similar “marches of return”, whose avowed strategic goal is the realization of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants.

Clearly, if such marches do take place, Israel and its military will be put in an unenviable (to greatly understate matters) predicament—having to choose between mowing down large numbers of (largely unarmed) civilians and being inundated with international censure and possibly sanctions; or allowing frenzied mobs to overrun and ravage Israeli towns, villages and farming communities located close to the border, and to raze their homes, rape their women and butcher their residents.

Is Lauder seriously suggesting that Israel evacuate more territory to afford the Palestinian-Arabs greater freedom to conduct such pernicious and potentially lethal rallies??

After all, for two-statism to work, the Palestinian-Arabs will have to morph into something that they have not been for over a hundred years. There is, however, not a shred of evidence that they are likely to do so within any foreseeable time frame. To the contrary, as time progresses, such metamorphosis seems increasingly remote.

Lauder professes deep love for Israel. So one can only scratch one’s head in bewilderment as to why he would urge “our beloved nation” to pursue a path that has proved so perilous in the past—with little reason for it to be any less so in the future.

“Capitulation to religious extremists”? Give us a break, Ron!

The second purported mortal threat that Lauder sees imperiling Israel’s existence is its alleged “capitulation to religious extremists” and “the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora”.

As for Israel capitulating to religious extremism, Lauder charges: “…the spread of state-enforced religiosity in Israel is turning a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one”.

On this, allow me, as a decidedly non-observant Jew, to blurt out: Give us a break Ron!

After all, for anyone remotely familiar with the realities of Israeli society—the glut of seafood restaurants offering their fare on Friday nights, the congested highways on Saturdays, the throngs of shoppers flocking to the crowded department stores and coffee shops open on the Sabbath, the skimpy bikinis on crowded beaches over the weekend, the carnal content freely available in the national media—this is clearly complete claptrap.

Indeed, the overwhelmingly greater part of everyday life in Israel is such that most non-Orthodox Jews would feel entirely comfortable here. Any discomfort some might sense would probably be because they occasionally find some of it overly licentious, rather than restrictively puritan.

It is of course, true that Orthodox Jewry does have a monopoly of certain official and ceremonial aspects of Jewish life. But that has always been the case and is hardly an alarming new development, indicating that Israel is sliding from being a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one.

How the two-state dogma empowers religious Orthodoxy

Quite the opposite. The current situation reflects the outcome of the workings of Israeli democracy, not Israeli theocracy. It is the consequence of the power structure determined by free and fair elections and not the diktat of some authoritarian high priest, ensconced by divine decree.

In this regard, little analysis is required to discover a crucial, but seldom recognized, truth regarding the socio-political realities in Israel. Virtually all the political power of the religious parties is a direct result of the political schism between the secular parties over the issue of two-statism. For it is only because of the intra-secular rivalry over the appropriate territorial dimensions of Israel that give the religious parties their hold over “the balance of power” and allow them to wring disproportionate political gains from their coalition partners—much in the same way as Avigdor Liberman’s stridently secular Yisrael Beitainu faction managed to coerce Netanyahu into giving him the defense portfolio.

After all, not a single piece of religious legislation has ever been passed in the Knesset without overwhelmingly more secular MKs voting for it than religious MKs.

Accordingly, if Lauder wishes to break the power of the Orthodox factions in the Knesset, all he need to do is this: Urge the left-leaning secular parties to forsake the fatally flawed and failed formula of two-statism and the disproven land-for-peace doctrine on which it is based, to allow a unified secular bloc in the Knesset, which could operate freely without “extortion” from the Orthodox parties, who would no longer hold the balance of power.

Simple really. Merely elementary arithmetic.

Lauder’s false dichotomy

Lauder presents his reader with a stark choice, claiming: “…13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian…If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy”.

He thus concluded: “To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution.”

Even without engaging him on his demographic assessments and projections, this is a wildly misleading representation of reality and an utterly false dichotomy.

For there is a way to retain Israeli democracy while avoiding the territorial peril entailed in the two-state formula, and the demographic dangers entailed in enfranchising the enemy.

This is the Humanitarian Paradigm on which I have written frequently— and which entails initiating incentivized emigration of the Arab residents in Judea-Samaria through a comprehensive system of enticing incentives for leaving and daunting disincentives for staying.

I would urge Lauder to familiarize himself with the details of this paradigm. Indeed, I am sure he will soon discover—as I have shown elsewhere—that it is the most humane policy option if it succeeds, and the least inhumane if it does not. Perhaps then, he will be able to abandon his false dichotomy and adopt an alternative that addresses both Israel’s geographic and demographic needs—without forsaking its democracy.

AIPAC and the progressives “uncompelling” case

In pursuit of bipartisanship AIPAC should strive to persuade “progressives”, not pander to them”; to convert them, not coopt them.

The progressive narrative for Israel is just as compelling and critical as the conservative oneAIPAC PresidentMort Fridman, March 5, 2018.

Almost two weeks have passed since the last AIPAC conference and much of the Israel advocacy world is still abuzz over the brouhaha created by the explicit endorsement by the organization’s leadership of two-statism—a position out of step with that of the current governments of both the US and Israel—who, at best, pay highly dubious lip service to the idea.  


An ill-founded & ill-advised call.

In several respects the uproar is a little surprising. After all, almost identical sentiments were expressed by senior AIPAC officials at last year’s conference.

Thus, mid- way through his 2017 address, AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr called on the US to undertake “steps [that] could…create a climate that encourages the Palestinians to negotiate in pursuit of the goal we desire: a Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a demilitarized Palestinian state ”.

This of course is virtually indistinguishable from the contentious call he made mid-way through his address this year, proclaiming: “We must all work toward that future: two states for two peoples. One Jewish with secure and defensible borders, and one Palestinian with its own flag and its own future.”

Last year, the alleged rationale of the embrace of the two-state formula was the endeavor to cultivate bipartisan support for Israel by avoiding alienating Democrats in Congress, who tend to support the idea.

This year, the professed rationale was essentially similar, with a slight shift of emphasis from retaining support of Democrat legislators to retaining the membership of “progressive” Jews from whom the two-state paradigm has almost sacred significance.

It is a call that was ill-founded and ill-advised last year—and is no less ill-founded and ill-advised this year.


Touting tyranny in pursuit of bipartisanship?

Indeed, immediately following the 2017 conference I published a column entitled, AIPAC – Touting tyranny in pursuit of bipartisanship, .

In it, I urged that “Instead of trying to resurrect the decrepit zombie of two-statism in pursuit of bipartisanship, AIPAC would do better to assist in promoting Zionist-compliant alternatives.”

After all, as I pointed out, as important as bipartisanship is, it is in fact a means to achieving a goal – not a goal in itself—and it is crucial that this distinction be kept clearly in mind.

Thus, in his 2017 address, Kohr declared: “…we are here because we are the bipartisan voice in America needed to help keep Israel safe in a dangerous world.

It is clear therefore that AIPAC’s objective is “keeping Israel safe in a dangerous world” and bipartisanship, a means to achieve it.

In my previous INTO THE FRAY column, I posted several graphic photos, showing how hopelessly vulnerable Israel would be if it relinquished the highlands of Judea-Samaria—the territory earmarked for a future Palestinian state—to Arab control.

They dramatically underscored how setting up such a state would make “keeping Israel safe” immensely more difficult and its world, vastly more “dangerous”—which also makes AIPAC’s endorsement of two-statism starkly self-contradictory—even self-obstructive.


Dangers dramatically depicted.

Significantly, these dangers were vividly articulated by none other than the late Shimon Peres in his Oslo-era book, “The New Middle East” (1993): “Even if the Palestinians agree that their state have no army or weapons, who can guarantee that a Palestinian army would not be mustered later to encamp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches to the lowlands? And if the Palestinian state would be unarmed, how would it block terrorist acts perpetrated by extremists, fundamentalists or irredentists?

Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

This echoes an earlier warning which Peres issued a decade-and-a half earlier, cautioningt: “The major issue is not [attaining] an agreement, but ensuring the actual implementation of the agreement in practice. The number of agreements which the Arabs have violated is no less than number which they have kept”. (Tomorrow is Now, Jerusalem: Keter, 1978, p. 48).

One can hardly believe that there is any cause for enhanced belief in Arab credibility since then—given the myriad of subsequent Arab breaches of agreements.

Accordingly, rather than endorsing the two-state formula in an effort to entice liberal leaning legislators to support Israel and to persuade progressive Jews to persist in their membership of the organization, AIPAC should embark on a totally different course


A particularly perverse political paradox

However, it is not only in the realm of security that promoting the two-state principle is counter-productive for AIPAC. If anything the moral case for rejecting it even more compelling.

Thus, perhaps one of the most perverse political paradoxes that prevails in the discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict is the support of those who profess to cherish liberal values for the establishment of yet another homophobic, misogynistic Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks would be gender bias against women/girls, persecution of homosexuals, the prosecution of political dissidents and religious intolerance against non-Muslim faiths.

Indeed, no two-stater has, to the best of my knowledge, ever advanced a persuasive argument why the entity, which two-state advocates endorse, will be anything but the antithesis of the very values they invokes for its establishment.

Accordingly, given past precedents, present realities and future projections, it is difficult to see how two-state advocacy is anything other the endorsement of the establishment of a mega-Gaza overlooking greater Tel Aviv (see here) dominating Israel’s only international airport (see here) and abutting its major transport axes (see here). .

So unless one assumes the wildly improbable, implementation of the two-state principle—and the establishment of a Palestinian state—will culminate in realities that are the utter negation of the very values for which it was purportedly supported.

This is something that AIPAC must seriously consider in assessing its support of two-statism. For in its quest for bipartisanship by strongly endorsing the perverse two-state prescription in order to mollify miffed Democrats, AIPAC is in fact….

How should I put this? Touting tyranny?


Gaza: The ghoulish gruesome culmination of two-statism

Just how delusional and detached from reality “progressive” support for two-statism is, was underscored earlier this week by an attempt by unknown assailants to assassinate the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority who was visiting Gaza for the inauguration of a new, foreign funded water purification plant.

The event further underscored—if any additional proof were required—just how little progress has been made over the last quarter century in advancing the cause of Palestinian nationhood.

Indeed, despite:

– virtually worldwide political endorsement of their cause,

– highly favorable international media coverage,

– massive financial aid; and

– numerous compliant Israeli governments,

all the Palestinians have managed to establish is a corrupt kleptocracy in Judea-Samaria and a tyrannical theocracy in Gaza, with a dysfunctional polity—which, for over a decade, has been unable to conduct proper municipal elections, never mind legislative or presidential ones; and a feeble economy—crippled by corruption and cronyism with a bloated public sector and a miniscule private one, utterly dependent on foreign aid.

Nowhere is the appalling failure more evident than in Gaza, where the ill-fated experiment of foisting self-governance on the hapless Palestinian-Arabs was first attempted—amid much fanfare and celebration.

The dismal results are not difficult to discern.

Awash in flows of raw sewage, with virtually all natural sources of water undrinkable, with perennial and prolonged power outages disrupting the regular operation of desalination and water purification plants, with polluted beaches becoming a grave public health hazard, and with much of the enclave’s resources being diverted from the civilian sector to building military infrastructure to battle the hated “Zionist entity”—the outlook for the average Gazan looks bleak indeed, with little hope of any respite on the horizon.

For this, Gazans have two-staters—and two-staters alone—to blame.


The “progressives” utterly un-compelling narrative.

The jury is no longer out on two-statism!

When it first became the centerpiece of Israel’s Mid-East policy, back in the early 1900s—after being considered border-line treason for decades—there were two-state proponents, who promised that sweeping benefits would be reaped; and two-state opponents who warned of the dire dangers it would wreak.

Today—a quarter century later—the results are unequivocal. None of the benefits, which the proponents promised, have been fulfilled, while all the dangers, of which the opponents warned, have indeed materialized.

Thousands of Jews and Arabs have paid with their lives and limbs on the altar of the false deity of “progressive” political correctness.

So when the AIPAC president declares that “The progressive narrative for Israel is just as compelling…as the conservative one”, it it difficult to know on what he bases such a contention. For it is demonstrably untrue.

It is—to be charitable—un-compelling in terms of its security implications for Israel. It is un-compelling in terms of its moral ramifications. It is un-compelling in terms of its political pretensions. It is un-compelling in terms of its socio-economic outcomes—just ask the folk in Gaza.   After, all it is they who bear the full brunt of “progressive” two-statism


Progressive poppycock

In a recent article, threateningly titled, AIPAC won’t win back progressives until it faces hard truths about Israel, two professed progressives, Jeremy Ben-Ami and Jill Jacobs, write: “the argument that ‘Israel’s security cannot be fully ensured and its promise cannot be fully realized until she is at peace with all her neighbors,’ which AIPAC’s CEO Howard Kohr shared with the crowd during his welcoming remarks, is one that we have each made time and again.”

Could it be that the authors are trapped in a time warp! Apparently they haven’t heard that Israel is doing fine in “realizing its promise”. On the cutting edge of nearly every field of human endeavor, with its GDP per capita overtaking a number of  EU countries, its technology sought after worldwide, expanding its influence and exports in Asia and Africa…

Of course it would be more than intriguing how they would recommend Israel reach peace with all its neighbors. By surrendering the Golan to Syria?? (Just as well the “progressives didn’t prevail on that score). By withdrawing from Gaza and removing every vestige of Jewish presence. (Oh Yes. We did that.) Or by withdrawing to the international border with Lebanon (Drat! That didn’t work). Or by evacuating the entire Sinai—now being taken over by brutal Jihadi gangs?

Indeed, in the face of blatant balderdash, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile calls for embracing a progressive narrative with genuine concern for the well-being of the Jewish nation-state—at least on planet Earth.

Persuade rather than pander; convert rather than coopt

As I mentioned earlier, the pursuit of bipartisanship is a worthy goal for AIPAC—but not if it means sacrificing its core mission to “help keep Israel safe in a dangerous world”.

Thus, in its endeavor to achieve its goal of bipartisan support for Israel, AIPAC should focus efforts on persuading “progressives” to forsake their regressive two-state agenda, rather than pandering to them by embracing it.

By highlighting two-statism’s perilous security implications, its pernicious moral ramifications and calamitous socio-economic consequences, AIPAC should convince “progressives” that two-statism is the utter negation of all the values they purport to cherish, and will result in precisely the realities they would wish to avoid.

Accordingly, AIPAC should seek bipartisanship by converting progressives—not co-opting them.

That is the only way its leadership can save this proud organization from sinking into irrelevance.

AIPAC’s CEO – Picture the perils of “Palestine”

Palestinian statehood & a secure Israel are mutually exclusive goals. This was always the accepted wisdom in Israel – until the discourse was hijacked by the tyrannical diktats of politically correct dogma


We must all work toward that future: two states for two peoples. One Jewish with secure and defensible borders, and one Palestinian with its own flag and its own future, Howard Kohr, March 4, 2018.

Last Sunday, in front of 18,000 animated pro-Israel activists, AIPAC’s CEO, Howard Kohr delivered a polished and carefully-crafted address—totally torpedoed about midway through his 25 minute speech by a few seconds of politically-correct claptrap.

After meticulously cataloguing the daunting dangers facing Israel and the nefarious nature of her unscrupulous adversaries—from the Shia “puppet master”, Iran, and its terror proxy Hezbollah in the North to the brutal Sunni Hamas and the assorted Salafi Jihadi renegades in the South—Kohr went on to propose…giving them precisely what they are allegedly clamoring for—at least initially: A self-governing Arab entity in the East, dominating Israel’s densely populated coastal plain, abutting the trans-Israel highway and overlooking Israel’s only international airport.

Mutually exclusive goals: Palestinian statehood and a secure Israel


I do not wish to dwell on all the logical inconsistencies, factual inaccuracies and glaring non-sequiturs that marred the second half of Kohr’s impeccably delivered speech. Rather, I shall focus on only one: His call for a state for the Palestinians “with its own flag and its own future” on the one hand; and “secure and defensible borders” for Israel on the other.


After all, Palestinian statehood and a secure Israel are mutually exclusive goals. Indeed, this was always the accepted wisdom in Israel – until the discourse was hijacked by the tyrannical diktats of politically correct dogma.


Thus, it was none other than Nobel laureate, the late Shimon Peres, who warned: If a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it, there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passers-by, but every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the coastal plain .- “Tomorrow is Now” (Keter publishers), pp. 232, 255.

This dour caveat was echoed by Israel Prize laureate, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who also served as Education Minister on behalf of the far-Left Meretz faction: “Israel, small and exposed, will neither be able to exist nor prosper if its urban centers [and] its vulnerable airport…are shelled…this is the terrible danger involved in the establishment of a third independent sovereign state between us and the Jordan River. – ‘The Pitfall of a Third State’, Haaretz, Aug. 8, 1976.



These two citations convey, with chilling accuracy, the grave perils to which Israel would be exposed if a Palestinian state were ever established on the commanding hills overlooking the country’s coastal megalopolis, where about 80% of the country’s civilian population and commercial activity are located.


These dangers are dramatically illustrated by the following series of photographs, shot from locations inside the territory designated for any future Palestinian state.


All taken on January 31, 2018, using a Canon 7D Mark II camera, fitted with a Sigma Sport 150/600 lens, from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis and Al-Lubbanlocated about 5 km across the pre-1967 “Green Line” (see map), they vividly convey how vulnerable and exposed Israel would appear through the binoculars of any Palestinian “intelligence officer” (a.k.a. terrorist) perched on those heights.






Ben Gurion Airport hopelessly exposed


The following four photographs depict how utterly exposed the installations and aircraft – both on the ground and in the sky – would be to any hostile forces–even lightly armed–deployed on the highlands east of Israel’s densely populated coastal plain.


Above: Israel’s only international airport, Ben Gurion – as seen from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis and Al-Lubban (buildings seen in foreground), showing the new control tower, the passenger terminal, the duty-free area and planes docking for embarkation/disembarkation.


Above: Israel’s only international airport, Ben Gurion – as seen from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis and Al-Lubban showing numerous civilian planes on the tarmac.


Above: A plane taking off from Ben Gurion, Israel’s only international airport – as seen from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis and Al-Lubban.


Above: Arkia airliner taking off from Ben Gurion airport – shot from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis and Al-Lubban. (Camera: Canon 7D Mark II with Sigma Sport 150/600 lens).


A tempting target: Israel coastal urban sprawl


The next five photographs convey starkly what a tempting target the office buildings, prestigious apartment blocks, teeming recreational and entertainment centers and central transport arteries (rail and road) would be if the IDF were to evacuate areas earmarked for a future Palestinian  state.


Above: Tel Aviv skyline showing the iconic Azrieli high-rise complex, adjacent to the Ministry of Defense and IDF’s GHQ, the trans-Tel Aviv Ayalon Highway and the busy HaShalom railway station; also seen is Kirya (Ha-Yovel) Tower, with 28 of its 42 floors occupied by government offices, and the nearby Azrieli Sarona Tower, the tallest building in Tel Aviv – as seen from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis & Al-Lubban.


Above-Enlarged: The Azrieli high-rise complex, adjacent to the Ministry of Defense and IDF’s GHQ, the trans-Tel Aviv Ayalon Highway and the busy HaShalom railway station; also the Kirya (Ha-Yovel) Tower, with 28 of its 42 floors occupied by government offices, & the Azrieli Sarona Tower, the tallest building in Tel Aviv.


Above: Tel Aviv skyline showing the luxury apartment complex, Park Tsameret, adjacent to the trans-Tel Aviv (Ayalon) highway and the busy Savidor Central railway station – as seen from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis and Al-Lubban.


Above: Enlarged: North Tel Aviv skyline showing the luxury apartment complex, Park Tsameret, adjacent to the trans-Tel Aviv (Ayalon) highway and the busy Savidor Central railway station.



Above: North Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak sky-line showing the Reading Power Station chimney, adjacent to the Tel Aviv Port recreation area, and the 4 BSR Towers, which house many upmarket law firms, medical facilities, hi-tech offices and numerous busy restaurants– as seen from just east of the Palestinian-Arab villages of Rantis & Al-Lubban.


The imperative to “think ahead

In the opening minutes of his address, Kohr observed: “…there have been many threats [to Israel]; many more ready to make them. So it is our purpose and mission to always think ahead, prepare for any possibility…


And indeed we should.


One of the “possibilities” we should “prepare for” is the (highly plausible) prospect that any land vacated by Israel and the IDF will fall into the hands of vehemently hostile elements – as happened every time Israel has relinquished territory to Arab control—whether in the North in South Lebanon; in the South in the Gaza Strip, and even in Sinai, now descending into the depravity of Jihadi brutality…


Of course, once Israel evacuates the strategically vital highlands of Judea-Samaria to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian statewith its own flag and its own future”; there is no way that Israel can have “secure and defensible borders”—for there is no way it can ensure that they will not fall into the very hands of those who Kohr so excoriated in his speech—including elements controlled by the terror “puppet masters” in Tehran.


So we should all heed Kohr’s wise counsel and make it “our… mission to always think ahead, prepare for any possibility…

So should Kohr!

[WATCH] Gaza: Let Their People Go

The above video features Martin Sherman speaking about the most realistic and humanitarian solution for the former Israeli enclave of Gaza now in the hands of a brutal Jihadist terror group, Hamas.

The perils of postponing preemption

Israel is approaching a point when it must decide to destroy enemy capabilities, rather than attempting to deter the enemy from using them.

To remain at peace when you should be going to war may be often very dangerous…Let us attack and subdue…that we may ourselves live safely for the future.
– Thucydides (c. 460–395 BCE)

No government, if it regards war as inevitable, even if it does not want it, would be so foolish as to wait for the moment which is most convenient for the enemy.
– Otto von Bismarck (1815–1890)

…it is possible that the dangers into which we are steadily advancing would never have arisen. But the world and the Parliaments and public opinion would have none of that.. When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure…

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), House of Commons, May 2, 1935.

In the past few days, senior IDF officers have publicly warned that the chances of war on Israel’s northern border in 2018 are growing significantly –see for example here and here.

100,000 missiles just for show?

The specter of renewed fighting presents Israel with a daunting dilemma.

Since the end of the 2006 Lebanon War, poorly conducted—and even more poorly concluded—by the Olmert government, the arsenal of the Iranian terror proxy, Hezbollah has grown exponentially in both the quantity and quality of its weaponry—now reportedly over ten times its pre-war size, and vastly enhanced in terms of its precision and destructive capacity.

Indeed, no one even vaguely familiar with the brutal nature of the organization—its gory past, and chilling proclamations of future intent—could even remotely entertain the hopelessly naïve belief that it was stockpiling over 100,000 missiles just for show.

Accordingly then, the working assumption underlying Israel’s strategic planning must be that, at some stage, they will in fact, be used against Israel and its civilian population centers. Certainly, any policy discounting such a possibility as implausible would be wildly irresponsible.

As Israeli military sources point out—the likelihood of such a grim scenario has been increased by several other factors—over which Israel has little to no control.

The one is the winding down of the civil war in Syria, in which Hezbollah has been embroiled to support their ally, Bashar al-Assad, who appears to have regained control of much of the country. This allowed Hezbollah forces to begin disengaging from the fighting and to refocus their attention on the hated “Zionist entity” to the south. The other is the undisguised efforts of Iran to establish a permanent military presence in both Syria and Lebanon—including the deployment of troops and the production of weapons in these two client states—and the completion of a Shia crescent, creating an effective land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean coast.

Who decides when?

Given the assumption that, bolstered by its patron’s pervasive physical presence, Hezbollah will in all likelihood, eventually, use the vast arsenal at its disposal, the inevitable question is: Will Israel allow its deadly adversary to choose the time, place and circumstances for a major attack against it? Indeed, more to the point, can Israel afford to allow Hezbollah such a choice?

To grasp the consequences of permitting Hezbollah the chance of a large-scale first-strike, it is necessary to understand that the organization now poses a much graver threat than that of an asymmetric war with a guerrilla army, as it did in the past. Thus, a study published in July 2017 by a well-known security studies institute warned:
“…military buildups by Iran and Hezbollah – in Syria, and the production of high quality weapons in Lebanon – could mark the start of a new era… and could be seen as an attempt by Iran and Hezbollah to create a symmetrical strategic equation with Israel, if not more than that, i.e., achieving the capability to inflict significant damage to critical military and civilian systems in Israel”.

Accordingly, Hezbollah has become as a strategic danger to Israel, and while on its own it is clearly unable to invade and conquer large tracts of territory, it is eminently capable of wreaking massive damage on Israel’s civilian population and its strategic infrastructure.

“Unprecedented threat to infrastructure…”

Both the sheer numbers and greatly improved precision of Hezbollah’s weaponry, relative to 2006, could pose an almost insurmountable challenge to Israel’s missile defense systems. For now, not only would a far greater number of missiles be launched, but far fewer would be off target, and could therefore be left to fall un-intercepted, causing neither damage nor casualties…

Thus, the previously cited study cautions: “the threat represented by even a small number of precision missiles that breach Israel’s countermeasures and strike critical systems, such as electricity generation, could be unprecedented. The picture is similar with regard to other critical systems, such as national electricity management; natural gas infrastructure; sea water desalination (only five facilities supply about half of Israel’s drinking water); and many other examples from civilian and military fields.”

As the authors, former government minister, Gideon Sa’ar, and experienced Israeli air force veteran, Ron Tira, point out: “Israel is exceptionally vulnerable to attack by precision weapons, as on the one hand it is an advanced Western country dependent on sophisticated technologies, and on the other it is small, with very concentrated infrastructures and very little redundancy.”

The effects of the accompanying civilian casualties, the disruption of vital services and socio-economic routine—and consequent corrosive impact on public morale of such an assault are difficult to overstate. Indeed, there are certainly liable to be far-reaching and irreversible ramifications for the future resilience of the county—which must be averted at all costs.

Degrading deterrence?

Moreover, if a surprise precision missile attack were launched at Israel’s major air bases, even if the aircraft were left unscathed, damage to runways and infrastructure could render them inoperative—thus crippling, or at least severely curtailing, Israeli ability to retaliate.

After all, the very perception of the feasibility of such a scenario on the part of the enemy could, in itself, erode Israeli deterrence, based as it is—at least in conventional contexts—largely on airpower. This might well prompt the enemy to launch such an attack, in the belief that, if successful, it could then proceed to bombard the country with relative—albeit temporary—impunity.

Indeed, the very concept of ongoing deterrence, as the term has been used in the enduring Arab-Israeli conflict, in which large-scale military clashes flare up regularly, typically after a tense interbellum of several years, should be critically examined. In the intervening period between fighting, Israeli sources attributed the relative calm to the effectiveness of Israeli “deterrence”.

However, Israel’s adversaries, whether Hamas or Hezbollah, have not been deterred in the sense that they have had their will to engage in combat broken. Quite the reverse. Not only have they emerged from each engagement still spoiling for a fight, but after a period, they have emerged with new and vastly enhanced capabilities to be employed in the next round of battle.

So rather than being deterred, both Hamas and Hezbollah have merely been forced to regroup, rearm and redeploy—ready to attack when the time appears opportune.

But for the grace of God?

Certainly, with regard to Hezbollah, claims that it has been deterred, rather than compelled to regroup, rearm and redeploy—seem, to be charitable, unpersuasive. After all, what adversary, if deterred, proceeds immediately to expand their offensive capabilities by over a thousand percent?!

Indeed, it is an open question as to whether Hezbollah—had it not been enmeshed in the Syrian civil war in 2014—would have joined Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in a coordinated bombardment of Israeli cities to overwhelm the defensive capabilities of the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

It is an equally open—and ominous—question as to whether it will do so in a fourth round of fighting in Gaza—something numerous pundits consider unavoidable.

Regarding the situation on the northern border, several pundits have advocated a process of limited strikes on specific targets to foil the Iranian buildup, and convey the message that Israel will not tolerate such developments—and will not finch from escalation to prevent them.

This, however, is a prescription that is very likely to fail, increasing dangers, rather than diminishing them. Indeed, given manifest Iranian resolve and proven difficulty in breaking Hezbollah’s will to fight, it is liable to lead not only to the hardening of targets— for example by converting them from surface to underground sites—but to familiarizing the enemy with Israel’s methods and capabilities.

So what then, should Israel do to confront the emerging strategic peril in the north?

Deterrence vs. preemption: the doctrinal clash

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I have been warning for years that successive Israeli governments have been backing away from confrontations in which Israel can prevail, thereby risking backing the country into a confrontation in which it may not—or only do so at exorbitant costs.

Such a situation may well be brewing on the northern border today—with Iran at the gates in Syria, with Hezbollah deploying in the Golan, with a massive arsenal in the Lebanon trained on much of the country, and with the possibility of a coordinated attack in the south from Gaza. And if Israel waits until Iran can spread an effective nuclear umbrella over its Judeocidal proxies….?

Simple common sense and survival-based logic would seem to mandate one course of strategic action to contend with these ominous developments: Massive preemption to destroy the enemies’ ability to attack, not deter them from doing so.

In this regard, it is important to gasp that there is a doctrinal clash between the ability to attain effective deterrence and to achieve successful preemption. After all, in order to deter adversaries, one needs to convince them that they will suffer unacceptable damage were they to attack. But to convey such a message, one needs to reveal one’s capabilities to wreak such devastation—for otherwise, how could one’s potential attacker be convinced not to attack?

By contrast, successful preemption typically calls for surprise to overwhelm the enemy with an unexpected assault—which requires concealing one’s capabilities so that the enemy cannot make preparations to thwart them.

The choice of which of these somewhat antithetical doctrines to adopt may soon be upon Israeli policy makers.

1967 triumph vs 1973 trauma

In weighing this strategic dilemma, Israel’s leadership will, in effect, have to decide whether they are willing to risk sacrificing Israeli lives to appease the deity of political correctness. For in the past, restraint has often proven ruinous.

So the choice is between incapacitating the enemy while you can; or continuing to deter the enemy—until you can’t!

In making this decision, it may well be instructive for today’s policymakers to look back at the nation’s history and compare the triumph preemption brought in 1967, to the trauma wrought by deterrence failure in 1973.

Seen in this light, the lesson seems unequivocal… Or is that just me?

The police, the press and a politicized “Putsch”?

The unrelenting drive to bring an indictment—any indictment—against Netanyahu has long exceeded the bounds of reasonable law enforcement

Ever since he [Benjamin Netanyahu] was elected to lead the Likud and especially after he became prime minister, the mainstream media has ceaselessly sought to besmirch him and his family. No other democratic leader has been continuously vilified to such an extent. The liberal Israeli media has had more front-page coverage of Netanyahu’s alleged personal failings and vague accusations of corruption than coverage of the turbulent and bloody events in the region that threaten our very survival.- Isi Leibler, Dysfunctional Politics and Disgraceful Behavior , February 20, 2018.

The past week was just another normal week in Israel—with new and sensational allegations and suspicions of evermore grave violations of the law by the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, being supposedly uncovered by the police—and dramatically covered by a frenetic press.

Impudent upstart usurper

Ever since his unexpected, razor-thin 1996 victory over Shimon Peres—the left-leaning liberal establishment candidate for the premiership—Netanyahu has been hounded and harassed by his political rivals within Israel’s entrenched civil society elites, and subjected to a maelstrom of allegations that range from the petty to the preposterous.

For two decades, he has been assailed by the self-appointed bon-ton set, who saw him as an impudent upstart usurper of the their divinely ordained right to govern. Significantly, the recriminations against him rarely—if ever—related to the manner in which he discharged the duties of the office to which he was elected.

As their astonished disbelief morphed into visceral rage, a cavalcade of charges was unleashed, admonishing him (and/or his spouse) for irregular use of garden furniture, the employment of an electrician, the proceeds from the sale of recycled bottles; payments to a moving contractor, an inflated ice cream bill (no kidding), the cost of his wife’s coiffure, meals ordered for the official PM residence from restaurants; expenses involving the care of his ailing 96 year old father-in-law…

Significantly, several of the investigations into these “grave transgressions” ended with a recommendation by the police to indict. Equally significantly, no indictment ever materialized—usually because of “difficulties with the evidence provided”.

Indeed, just how ludicrous and uncalled for the relentless witch-hunt appeared to some outside pundits is vividly reflected in a scathing critique of the anti-Netanyahu probes by the ever-incisive Daniel Greenfield, who jeered disparagingly: “Netanyahu’s wife was accused of stealing bottle deposits. ‘Attorney general mulls probe into Sara Netanyahu’s bottle deposits’ isn’t a gag, it’s an actual headline.

Despairing of democracy

With the onset of the March 2015 elections, most pundits confidently predicted the end of the Netanyahu era. Buoyed by optimistic polls and bolstered by ample foreign financing, provided by an undisguisedly anti-Bibi Obama administration, Netanyahu’s left-of-center rivals felt assured of victory.

Stunned by his strong showing and devoid of any alternative contender of adequate stature, they apparently despaired of defeating him at the ballot box—and fell back on other less democratic measures.

Thus, after huge media hype and well over a year of intensive investigation that spanned several continents and reportedly cost tens of millions of shekels—paid for by the very same taxpayers Netanyahu is suspected of defrauding—apparently all the police could come up with is what was already known by many: Netanyahu had ill-advisedly accepted an inordinate amount of wine and cigars over a ten year period from close personal acquaintances. Allegedly, in exchange for these plentiful high-end gifts, all that Netanyahu is supposed to have actually done is to help one of his generous friends, with a long record of service to the country, with his US visa arrangements. How heinous of him. How detrimental to the citizens of Israel and the principles of good governance!

As far as has been reported, everything else that Netanyahu attempted to achieve, supposedly in return for this untoward largesse, came to naught—leaving us to puzzle over how this was in anyway damaging to public welfare or how the national interest was undermined by it.

No less perplexing—and perturbing?

The other accusation, of bribery,  fraud and breach of trust, also entails something that never happened. In this case, Netanyahu met with the owner of a widely-read daily, that was consistently and fiercely critical of the Prime Minister, who was asked to use his influence to reduce competition from a rival daily, in return for less negative coverage.

Nothing ever came of the meeting. Quite the opposite. Netanyahu stanchly defended the rival newspaper against proposed legislation, intended to close it down, while its unrequited competitor continued to lambast him.

No less perplexing—and perturbing—were the developments of the past few days.

In the wake of intensive investigations, a number of senior managers and major shareholders of a large tele-communication corporation were arrested together with the director-general of the Ministry of Communications and Netanyahu’s former media advisor.

Here there appear to be two major charges. The one is that Netanyahu, as Minister of Communications, acted to advance the commercial interests of said corporation and its major shareholder. In return for this, Netanyahu and his family were supposedly given favorable coverage by a media channel, Walla, owned by the putative beneficiaries of Netanyahu’s purported efforts on their behalf.

The only real evidence of this seems to be a liberally photographed report of Sara Netanyahu visiting fire fighters in the north of the country—hardly much of a “quo” for such an allegedly substantial “quid”.

Bibi-phobia and the law of unintended consequences

The other suspected transgression involves an approach, allegedly made by Netanyahu’s former media advisor to a retired judge regarding her possible appointment to the position of attorney-general—if she would act to drop criminal probes against Sara Netanyahu.

Significantly, neither the judge nor the current Head of the Supreme Court, whom she informed of the approach, considered it a matter of any serious substance—and certainly not one entailing criminal intent. Indeed, neither of them felt the need to pursue the matter and certainly not to report it to the police.

This, in itself, would appear to be the ultimate mitigating factor in this case—demonstrating that no malfeasance was at hand.

However, it seems that Bibi-phobia is so intense it can generate some surprising unintended consequences. For the reticence of the two judges appears to have ignited the ire of those who normally consider the judiciary to be the “holiest of holies” in Israeli society—and the ultimate weapon with which to dispatch Netanyahu from power.

Thus, the usually virulent anti-Netanyahu—and equally enthusiastic pro-judiciary— daily, Haaretz, wrote a petulant piece , entitled: “Don’t the Rules Also Apply to Israel’s Supreme Court President…”, tacitly rebuking her for not pursuing the opportunity to skewer the object of their unadulterated abhorrence, Netanyahu.

A layman’s perspective: Criminalizing inferred intent?

I do not know whether or not there is some contorted, esoteric legalistic interpretation of the law by which Netanyahu’s conduct could be deemed grave criminal transgression.

But, I have little doubt that even if such an interpretation does exist, it would leave the overwhelming majority of impartial laymen unpersuaded.

Indeed, despite the massive media blitz on his legitimacy and leadership, the Likud seems to be gaining in strength—at least in the polls—where one actually found it would surge to 34 mandates, far outstripping its closest rival by a whopping 14 mandates.

For, as a layman, it is difficult to avoid the distinct impression that the unrelenting drive to bring an indictment—any indictment—against Netanyahu has long exceeded the bounds of reasonable law enforcement. Thus, it would seem, that where Netanyahu is concerned, the forces of law and order appear be to trying to outlaw every give-and-take interaction in political life, thereby extracting the very essence of political activity itself.

Indeed, one might be excused for raising the suspicion that a desperate attempt is underway to criminalize anything and anybody with any perceived congenial association with Netanyahu —whether professional or personal.

This is deeply disturbing. After all, by what seems to be criminalizing actions—even unperformed—by inferring nefarious intent to them—one is veering perilously close to criminalizing thought.

Food for thought: Bibi, Barghouti & double standards

In observing the public furor over the criminal probes into Netanyahu’s alleged misdeeds, a heretical thought crept into my mind.

Indeed, I could not help wondering: How many of the same champions of the rule of law, clamoring to convict and punish Netanyahu  to the full extent of the law, for accepting cigars and champagne, are also calling for the release Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences for murdering Israelis—to allow him contend for the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, so that he can engage in the ultimate act of extorted quid-pro-quo—extorting land for a precarious pledge of peace.

Of course, a little hypocrisy goes a long way…


Clearly, none of this is intended to convey the impression that Netanyahu is irreplaceable. After all, at some stage the Netanyahu-era will eventually come to an end, and some successor, whether more capable or less so, will be found to run the affairs of the nation.

What, however, is being contended is that, in the absence of some incontrovertible—and incontrovertibly grave—infraction, the composition of the government—or any change therein—should be decided by the polls, not by the police or a politicized press.

Coup d’état?

Netanyahu was elected as the Prime Minster, not as the Pope. Accordingly, he should be judged primarily on the basis of his political and strategic accomplishments, not his personal morality

What we are witnessing is, in effect, little less than an attempt at a bloodless coup d’état – conducted, not by the military, but by the messianic, indeed manic, mainstream media, buttressed by affiliated like-minded civil society elites, in a frenzied effort to impose their minority worldview on the nation…Enraged by their inability to rally sufficient public support on substantive policy issues, to unseat the object of their visceral enmity, Benjamin Netanyahu, and nonplussed by the tenacity of his “delinquent” hold on the premiership, despite their undisguised loathing, his political rivals have despaired of removing him from office by normal electoral means…Instead, they have descended into an unprecedented nadir of mean-spirited malevolence in Israeli public life….Coup d’état?, February 22, 2015

These are words I wrote, almost exactly three years ago, just prior to Netanyahu’s somewhat unexpected reelection in March 2015. In large measure, they are just as relevant now as they were then.

No uncritical pro-Bibi apologist

As readers who have followed my INTO THE FRAY column will recall, I have never been an uncritical, pro-Bibi apologist.

On the contrary, I have excoriated a number of his policy decisions, regularly and severely, and have even called for his resignation…on matters of policy.

Thus, for example, I strongly condemned his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, in which he accepted the idea of Palestinian statehood – see here and here. Likewise, I was severely critical of his decision to release over 1000 convicted terrorists (2011) to secure the release of captured IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit — and was even more opposed to a subsequent (2013) release of prisoners as a futile gesture to assuage the then-Secretary of State, John Kerry, in the vain hope of coaxing Mahmoud Abbas into renewing negotiations — see here and here.

I vehemently disapproved of his ill-advised attempt at rapprochement with Turkey — particularly the compensation paid for the casualties incurred when Israeli commandoes had to defend themselves against attempts to lynch them on the Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara, trying to breach the maritime quarantine of the terror enclave in Gaza.

Perhaps my most serious—and ongoing—criticism of Netanyahu is his enduring failure to adequately address the problem of international delegitimization of Israel, by refusing to allot adequate resources to initiate and sustain a strategic diplomatic offensive to confront, curtail and counter the global assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish state — see most recently here.

But for all my sharp disagreements with him, my criticism was always focused exclusively on matters of substantive policy, never on matters of persona or personality.

Smokes? Hootch? Really?!

Looking back at my 2015 article today, it is surprising (or not) just how little has changed since then.

Today, just as then, it is staggering just how petty and vindictive the vicious vendetta against Israel’s longest serving prime minister is—and how utterly irrelevant its alleged incriminations are to both the challenges the nation is facing and to Netanyahu’s fitness, as PM, to meet them…

Indeed, much of what I wrote then is—except for several differences of nuance and detail—entirely pertinent today: “Rather than engaging in a substantive debate on how to conduct the affairs of the nation, they have embarked on a dishonorable – the less charitable might say “disgraceful” – attempt to oust a prime minister by means of a maelstrom of petty and pernicious ad hominem attacks…directed not only against Netanyahu but…against his spouse, who – whatever her character defects may (or may not) be—is hardly a relevant factor in determining his ability to govern.”

Indeed, as I pointed out: “Devoid of any persuasive policy alternative of real substance, and of any alternative candidate of authentic stature, Netanyahu’s…detractors have mobilized to exploit their unelected positions of power and privilege to launch a massive media blitz against him and his wife – with the naked intention of degrading his political stature by denigrating his/her alleged personal excesses.”

Thus, after over a year of intensive investigations, that spanned several continents and reportedly costing the Israeli taxpayer tens of millions of shekels, all that the police could come up with is that Netanyahu accepted an unseemly amount of smokes and hootch from his long-time buddies—in exchange for which, at the end of the day, they received precisely zilch, nada, zippo!


Ignoring ISIS, Iran and Islamists…

Back in 2015 I expressed astonishment that: “… in a country…facing the specter of a nuclear Iran, an ascendant Islamic State threatening stability in Jordan…the deployment of Iranian-bolstered Hezbollah forces on the Golan, growing jihadist dominance of Sinai, and burgeoning anti-Semitism across Europe, the national media somehow found it appropriate to focus almost exclusively on ‘strategically crucial’ issues such as who received (gasp) $1,000 paid for recycled bottles from the PM’s official residence, whether Sara Netanyahu’s hairdos were excessively costly, or whether the prime minister’s garden furniture had been purchased in strict accordance with prescribed guidelines.”

My astonishment at the nature of the recent investigation remains undiminished. Indeed, as I remarked then: “While I would not wish to belittle, in any way, the need for personal integrity of public officials and for keeping a stringent lookout to ensure the judicious use of taxpayers’ hard earned money – what we witnessed in recent days was not a display of unbiased investigative journalism…It was a carefully choreographed and coordinated attempt at a political putsch by the press.”

The distinct impression is that the same anti-Bibi choreography persists today—bolstered by what is looking increasing like a contrived and politically motivated police investigation.

Guilty of…serial impotence??

After all, even if the police allegations are correct and Netanyahu did accept an inordinate amount of perishable merchandize to indulge his hedonistic tastes, it appears that he was resoundingly unsuccessful in providing any “quid” in return for any ill-gotten “quo”.

Accordingly, if Netanyahu did, in fact have any untoward motives with regard to improperly advancing the interests of plutocratic pals, the most he seems to be guilty of in this regard is serial incompetence in delivering the goods in exchange for the goodies.

It is of course, no secret that, in my eyes, Bibi is a deeply flawed prime minister. However, in my eyes, he is also the least deeply flawed of all his potential rivals who are possible candidates to replace him–particularly the currently leading contender, Yair Lapid, who now has apparently emerged as a key witness in the investigation against the man he wishes to depose.

You couldn’t make this stuff up!

After all, given Lapid’s failure to unseat Netanyahu in a reported “putsch” attempt while serving as a minister in his government (which led to his sacking), and his failure to do so at the ballot box in the 2015 elections, one might well be forgiven for allowing the suspicion to creep into one’s mind that he was only too happy to contribute to his nemesis’s downfall by non-parliamentary means.

Troubling questions

I do not want to dwell on the legal (or legalistic) intricacies of the suspicions against Netanyahu, as I have neither the information nor the professional expertise to do so.

However, as a reasonably well-informed layman, a prima facie perusal of the published allegations raise several troubling questions.

For example, if—as Lapid apparently claims—when he was serving as Finance Minister, Netanyahu tried to improperly induce him to extend a law passed by the Olmert government granting tax benefits to wealthy associates, why then did he not expose such malfeasance earlier, instead of waiting over three years for the police to prompt him?

This sense of unease is heightened not only by critiques of several prominent lawyers, who talk of “serious gaps” in the file submitted by the police, but even more so by reports of a “deep rift” between the police and the prosecution as to the thoroughness (or lack thereof) of the investigation and its findings.

But beyond the claims and counter-claims of impropriety and charges of unjustified discriminatory selective enforcement against Netanyahu (but not against rival politicians), there is the “minor” question of…common sense.

For even if one concedes that the Prime Minister was somewhat cavalier in accepting expensive gifts from his well-heeled friends over a period of a decade—when he was both in and out of office—common sense would seem to dictate that public censure and punitive disciplinary measures would be far more appropriate than criminal prosecution and removal from office.

Thus, when the next election comes, Netanyahu would have to seek renewed approval of his party and the public—in light of, or despite, the exposure of his hedonistic lapses.

A call for common sense

This of course is not a call to condone excesses of those in power, or diminish the imperative for clean government—but a call for reasonable and proportionate response to alleged infringements, in light of the underlying intent and de facto consequences.

The merits of this approach are intensely magnified when such alleged infringements are compared to the threats and challenges Israel faces today. With Iran at the gates, greatly empowered by the Obama-sponsored nuclear deal (which Netanyahu rightly and courageously strove to thwart, only to have his efforts undermined by those who now seek his removal); with an ever-more aggressive Iranian-proxy, Hezbollah, deploying in the Golan; with a Hamas-controlled Gaza edging ever-closer to confrontation; with Sinai descending into ungovernable brutality; and with Israel fighting for international legitimacy; it seems almost inconceivable that the government should be thrown into turmoil over cigars and champagne…even if, as charged, Netanyahu did act to help his friend, with a long record of service to the nation, with his visa arrangement in the US.

Indeed, given the ilk of Israel’s enemies, it is hardly implausible to conjecture that they would be greatly heartened by the spectacle of such disarray—and, emboldened by the belief that the government is distracted by such domestic strife, feel that the time is ripe to test the Jewish state with coordinated aggression.

Prime minister, not Pope

As I mentioned previously, I have no personal or ideological allegiance to Netanyahu. Indeed, some might believe I even have cause to feel slighted by him.

However, none of this should obscure the decades of his distinguished service to the country –as a special forces warrior, an accomplished diplomat, an astute finance minister, a brilliant foreign minister and as Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

Of course, this does not put him above the law, but it surely should put any allegation that he purposely acted to harm the national interest for personal greed in perspective.

After all, Netanyahu was elected as the Prime Minster, not as the Pope. Accordingly, he should be judged primarily on the basis of his political and strategic accomplishments, not his personal morality–and his capacity to deal with the challenges facing the country should weigh far more than his ascetics or his hedonism.

The real casualty

There are testing times ahead for Israeli society. Beset by harrowing external threats and what is liable to be unprecedented domestic tumult, there are unlikely to be any positive outcomes that emerge from the current furor.

If Netanyahu is not indicted, or indicted and acquitted, it will be a massive blow to the credibility of the nation’s law enforcement.

If he is convicted and forced out of office, many will see this as naked politicization of law enforcement in the country, in effect, a legalistic coup d’état, designed to annul the outcome of elections–and will deal a mortal blow to their faith in the democratic process.

Either way, there will be no winners—and the real casualty will be the public’s belief in the intuitions of state in Israel.